The cat is out of the bag. It's been a long time coming, and I've known about it for some time, but I was sworn to secrecy. King Street Brewing Company is moving. The brewery's outgrown its current location on North King Street in south Anchorage. For those of you that found that location convenient, don't panic. The brewery's breaking ground on property on south South King Street, and the new location comes with an added convenience factor for craft beer lovers like you and me.
I first interviewed owners Dana Walukiewicz and Shane Kingry in October of 2010. I chanced across their liquor license application notification in the Press and drove by the location. I had to leave a business card tucked in the door; the notification didn't provide contact information.
My interview introduced me to two aspiring homebrewers with ambitions of going commercial, and by that time they were well on their way. The duo projected a rather ambitious opening date of January 1, 2011, but I knew better. The brewery started pouring beer in October of that year.
Since then, it's been a "don't look back" wild ride through explosive popularity, runaway demand for their squeaky clean, stylistic beers and a quickly growing need for more space.
A mostly private ground breaking ceremony was held on the new site at 9050 King Street, with the entrance off of 91st Street, south and behind the Toys R' Us location on Dimond. "It was primarily for our founding residents and members, says Walukiewicz. "We've been working on the building permits for eight months," says Kingry. "It was sort of a last minute thing to do the event, we had a lot of good folks turn out for it," he says of the hype surrounding the announcement.
The decision to move and expand wasn't quick or ill-conceived. "We've always had a one, two and five year plan," says Walukiewicz. "The location we're in is lease space. We're not in the brewing business for the short haul. We're going to be here for the next 20 and 40 years; we may as well be paying rent instead of a mortgage"
The brewers started feeling the squeeze almost immediately after opening, but things really started getting tight in 2014. "In 2014 we realized that for the long term, we wanted to be somewhere more conducive to brewing than in an old warehouse space, and trying to make it work as a brewery," says Kingry.
Despite expanding into the next part of the current warehouse the brewery’s in, it wasn't enough. "We'd basically have to empty out the brewery every day just to go to work," says Kingry. "We'd have to pull out kegs, the cans and everything in there to move around and brew,” echoes Walukiewicz. Both of them started to feel they were fighting the building instead of focusing on the core value of making good, consistent beer.
The brewing area in the new facility will comprise about 10,000 square feet of the 18,000 square foot building. The new brewery will be three stories tall. "We're getting a lot more cubic feet," says Walukiewicz. "The brewery side will essentially be a single story. There will be a catwalk for customers to come through and overlook the brewing operations. The tap room will be on the east side. The second level will be unoccupied for a while and plans on that space will evolve after we open," he says. "The third floor will be an event room and some offices. There's a lot of potential in the new building, room to grow some more, and it's all being designed with the customer in mind."
What about the beer? "It will definitely change our brewing capacity," says Walukiewicz. "We can barely meet demand right now with our current system. It's crazy what we have to do to meet summer demand. At the same time, this will give us more room to grow in the future. We don't want to have to do this again in five or ten years," he says.
The brewhouse will be a combination of old and new. Pacific Mechanical is designing the new brewhouse. Some of the existing brewhouse will be brought over to integrate with bold plans for the future. I think the duo has the expansion dialed.
"We're buying the biggest system we can afford. Okay, we can't afford it, but we're buying it anyway," chuckles Kingry. It's the same thing when we first opened. We thought about a three barrel system, then a seven, and we ended up with a 10 barrel system which was more than we can afford, but we're glad we got it," says Walukiewicz.
The biggest challenges moving forward will be to continue to brew the rock solid beers the brewery's respected for and still expand in small, calculated steps, although the expansion is a big one. We’re super focused on staying with the same ingredients – we don’t want to change the beers or the quality, but if nothing else make them better because it will be easier to make them more consistent on the new, bigger system,” says Walukiewicz.
For you and me—the craft beer lovers that enjoy King Street's and all local beers—there's huge promise in the move.
"We do see some additions to our core line-up," says Walukiewicz guardedly. " For example, our new pale aIe will be one of our year round offerings. I see our seasonals growing more than the core line. We just don't have space in our walk-in cooler right now to produce stuff that lasts more than three or four weeks. With the new facility, we can make more fun beers that we don't necessarily distribute widely, but can have here at the brewery as a feature for our loyal customers that enjoy more unique beers," says Walukiewicz.
Here's the bonus. Savvy craft beer lovers that have heard the rumors like I have know that the brewery's location is right across the street from Anchorage Brewing Company on 91st Street. Forget about any competition between two steadfast, long-haul brewing entities in Anchorage; the breweries produce vastly different beers, and the convenience of having them so close together is great for the avid beer chaser.
“There are a lot of exciting things happening in that area. It’s great for the beer drinkers of Anchorage. It’s just 10 blocks south of where we are now,” says Kingry.
“We have customers that hang out in both places,” says Walukiewicz of the position next to Anchorage Brewing. “We’re all in the ‘Beermuda Triangle,’ as people say,” he says, referring to the convenient proximity of nearby Anchorage Brewing Company, King Street, Midnight Sun and Cynosure Brewing on Potter Street.
“We can’t give you a specific date, but March 1 of 2018 is our target for operating there and starting to brew a couple of batches,” says Kingry.
Until then, King Street’s delicious suds can be had at the current location at 7924 King Street. Visit Midnight Sun, Anchorage Brewing and Cynosure too; these are all great breweries with distinctly different beers in south Anchorage’s growing beer community.